Carl Leighton-Pope describes his new show as the result of a 16-year pregnancy. The good news is that the birth has been a huge success.
Carnaby Street, a celebration of the 60s featuring the music of The Beatles, Manfred Mann, The Animals, The Searchers, The Who and other great bands of the era, is on tour, taking in
the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from Tuesday-Saturday, September 17-21 and the Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday-Saturday, October 14-19.
“I wrote it and I am producing it, and it is one of those things that I have had going on for a very long time,” Carl says. “It got to the point where you have to say ‘Well, are we having this baby or not because if we are, we had better get on with it!’
“But the problem with life in general is that unless there is some cast-iron reason to do something, you just juggle things around. I am a music business agent, and other things come along. Michael Buble came along, and Bryan Adams got very busy, and things change.
“But what happened was that I met Bob Tomson, who directed Blood Brothers and Dreamboats and Petticoats, and we had a bit of lunch. I told him about my idea, and he came around to my office and read the first 20 pages.”
Bob had the eye that was needed. He asked who such and such a character was talking to on page 25. When Carl answered, Bob pointed out that that particular character had left the stage 20 minutes before.
“I realised that I could not do it on my own. I needed a professional, and so we picked it up. I had written the story, and we decided that when we wrote the script, we would write it and then put the songs in. I think there would have been a danger in listing a bunch of songs and then trying to force the story around them.”
They allowed it to happen naturally. If you have got a bunch of people sitting in a pub depressed at the way things are going, then which song comes to mind? The answer, of course, is Summertime Blues – and so the show developed organically.
“I was 18 in 1964. The story, the whole thing, is a little bit autobiographical,” says Carl who worked at the Marquee Club when all the great bands were coming through, when it was possible to see The Who with just 35 people in the crowd.”
To understand the times, you have to understand that music was the centre of the wheel: “And everything else was what came off that wheel, the clothes that you wore, the dances that you danced, the girls that you went with. It was a whole life style, whether you were Beatles or Rolling Stones. That was what defined you, who you hung out with.”
The Beatniks would have their own cafes; ditto the rockers; ditto the mods. It was all a way of life, Carl recalls.
Carnaby Street tells the story of Jude, a working class boy from Liverpool, new in town and armed with nothing but his guitar and his dreams of fame and fortune. The show follows the highs and lows, the passion and heartbreak, of his journey in pursuit of stardom.
The show is packed with more than 30 classic hits including Shout, My Generation, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Sweets for my Sweet, Roll Over Beethoven, Go Now, Keep On Running, I Only Want To Be With You, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Twist And Shout, 54321, We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place, Do You Love Me? and many more...